When the Mercantile Library in Cincinnati opened its doors in 1835, the 19th century institution stood in the middle of the fast-growing nation’s busiest startup community. It was a community that would give birth to some of the largest companies in the country including names like Procter & Gamble, Kroger, and E.W. Scripps. A group of 45 young, energetic, and confident merchants came together to organize the Library and put themselves on track to become the entrepreneurial engines of the growing city’s future prosperity.
This history, firmly rooted in entrepreneurship, was what attracted me to recently join the Mercantile Library Board of Directors. It was an opportunity to take a deeper role in one of our city’s cultural gems, while also helping guide the Mercantile as it sets its sights on a third century of invention and reinvention.
This past weekend saw one of our first efforts in that path of reinvention as we brought the 21st Century concept of a Hackathon to the Mercantile. The goal of the Hackathon was to convene the brightest minds in the city to help us come up with the best way to present the Library to a new generation of readers, writers, and thinkers. The result was a group of designers and hackers that came together for 36 hours to reimagine the digital presence of the Mercantile Library. From mobile apps to open data to new website designs, the results were pretty remarkable. In fact, every team had at least one concept that the Library plans on leveraging in the coming months as the Mercantile Library charts their path for the next 175 years. I’m looking forward to taking part in the journey.